I’ve had many people ask me how to teach children to read. Whether it’s a parent who doubts knowing enough to help her child through the process, or a teacher who worries that he’s pushing past the bounds of developmentally appropriate practice, there are many who wonder exactly how to get the job done well.
My grandmother had a very green thumb. As my grandfather toiled away at getting alfalfa fields to grow and cows to give milk in a high desert climate, she turned their front yard into an explosion of color and scent. There were bright California poppies, delicate bleeding heart bushes, a huge swath of daisies, roses that were fuller and brighter than anything at the store, fascinating four o’clocks, little purple pansies (which she loved to sing about), and my favorites: the lilac and snowball bushes.
“The first thing kids should learn about words is that they have meaning.”
That’s what I wrote in a guest post for The Imagination Tree recently. And it’s true! While there is plenty of practice that does — and needs to — go on with pieces and parts of words, rearranging letters, and practicing sounds and sight words, we must remember that with all of that, kids need a strong foundation in using words to receive and send meaning.
We’re really quite fixated on the importance of literacy in education, but if reading isn’t connected to meaning, all we’re teaching kids to do is string a bunch of sounds together. That’s not literacy.
In this old article from a 2005 issue NAEYC’s Young Child magazine, Susan Neuman and Kathleen Roskos, leading researchers in the field of early literacy, wrote about the importance of infusing meaning into the literacy experiences of early readers.
In reference to the joint position statement created by NAEYC and the International Reading Association outlining developmentally appropriate practice in literacy instruction, the authors wrote:
“The research-based statement stresses that for children to become skilled readers, they need to develop a rich language and conceptual knowledge base, a broad and deep vocabulary, and verbal reasoning abilities to understand messages conveyed through print. At the same time, it recognizes that children also must develop code-related skills” (phonological awareness, the alphabetic principle, etc.).
“But to attain a high level of skill, young children need many opportunities to develop these strands interactively, not in isolation. Meaning, not sounds or letters, drives children’s earliest experiences with print. Therefore, the position statement points out that although specific skills like alphabet knowledge are important to literacy development, children must acquire these skills in coordination and interaction with meaningful experiences (Neuman, Bredekamp, & Copple 2000).”
How do you create a culture of literacy that is rich in meaning? Here are a few key ideas. [Read more…]
A recent study published by literacy expert Dr. Susan B. Neuman in the Journal of Educational Psychology, has asserted (yet again) that babies do not actually learn to read by watching videos, staring at flashcards, or chewing on any other part of a bundle marketed as educational media for babies.
I love giving books as presents! It’s one gift my boys can count on for just about every holiday. But one of my favorite things to do is to pair a book with another gift. Each item is great on its own, but together they come to life! Here are a few of my favorites for this holiday season (includes affiliate links):
This week, I’ve written about the Importance of a Good Foundation and introduced you to Literacy Beginnings — A Prekindergarten Handbook, a resource I truly believe will become a new standard resource for early literacy. After Wednesday’s post outlining the wealth of information in this great book, you might be surprised to know there’s even MORE!
Just one page into Fountas and Pinnell’s new book, Literacy Beginnings: A Prekindergarten Handbook, I turned to my husband and said, “There’s a good chance I’m going to like any book that starts a discussion of early literacy with a diagram of a classroom that includes things like a sensory table, art supplies, and a dramatic play corner.”
I’m sharing a few old favorites while I’m away this week. This one was originally posted January 19, 2010.
Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh is one of my very favorite books for teaching about primary and secondary colors. The children absolutely love it as well. In the story, three mice climb into three jars of paint (red, yellow, and blue) and then begin dancing, stirring and mixing with their feet as they blend the primary colors together to create secondary colors. (Incidently, White Rabbit’s Color Book by Alan Baker is also fantastic and follows a very similar format. Just in case one is easier for you to get your hands on than the other!)
It’s rather well-known that reading aloud to children is one of the best things you can do to promote literacy. While simply hearing the story has its benefits, really building literacy, comprehension, and vocabulary requires conversation off the page. Here is an example of some of the conversation that took place as I recently shared a wonderful book, Brontorina by James Howe,* (*affiliate) with a group of young children.
Before starting the story, I show the children the cover and ask what they see. They notice the ballet dancers and the enormous dinosaur on the cover. They love that the dinosaur’s head is bumping into the letters above. Some point out that there are BOY ballet dancers, and an old lady. “Probably their grandma,” someone suggests.
I ask what they think the story might be about.
“The dinosaur wants to eat the kids.”
“No, that’s a plant-eater.”
“I think he’s dancing. Wait, is that a boy dinosaur or a girl dinosaur?”
We talk about their ideas. We’re building prediction skills and a foundation for connections and comprehension. Then I point out the title as I read it. We talk about the letter it starts with and the sound it makes. Then someone points out that the name of someone in the class starts with a B as well. We talk about who Brontorina might be, and they all agree it must be the dinosaur on the cover. The kids can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen, so we jump in! [Read more…]